Solidarity 309, 15 January 2014

Introduction to "In an era of wars and revolutions"

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 22:41

Introduction to In an era of wars and revolutions, by the editor, Sean Matgamna

That “one picture can be worth a thousand words” is true, but only up to a point. A photograph or a painting can not properly nail down, explain or explore ideas. A complicated piece of writing has no visual equivalent.

Yet a well-done cartoon is a powerful political weapon. A few bold strokes by an artist can convey an idea more vividly and fix it more firmly in the viewer’s mind than would an editorial or an article.

A cartoon is drawn to convey an idea, a point of view, an interpretation of what it depicts,

Review of "In an era of wars and revolutions"

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 21:32

Ed Strauss joined the YSL in 1954

When I first opened “In the era of wars and revolutions”, I was taken back sixty years, seeing again cartoons published by the Workers Party/Independent Socialist League (ISL) in its paper, Labor Action, which I always looked forward to receiving.

But this not a simple reminiscence. I was struck again by the special power and sharp lessons taught by these cartoons. It is much more than a simple cartoon book. It is an excellent textbook on the history of revolutionary socialism between the mid-1920s and mid-1950s. The introduction is most moving and the

Review of "In an era of wars and revolutions"

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 21:22

Socialist propaganda, defined by the Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov, conveys many ideas to a few people, whereas agitation conveys only one or a few ideas to a whole mass of people.

So what’s the point of socialist political cartoons? Pictures can sometimes convey ideas more vividly than a thousand words or a 10-minute speech. Cartoons are both valuable propaganda and effective agitation.

This 300-page book of cartoons spans the end of the period of high imperialism, from the 1920s to the Second World War, and culminates in the mid-1950s at the beginning of post-war US hegemony.

The first

Tube workers to strike on 4 February

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 12:59

The ballot of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers union (RMT) members on London Underground for strikes to stop ticket office closures and job cuts returned a 77% majority, on a turnout of 40%. The majority for actions short of strike was even higher.

The RMT has announced two 48-hour strikes, each timed to impact across three days, for 4-6 February and 11-13 February. It has also announced a ban on overtime and rest-day working for station staff starting from 17 January, and a revenue action (a refusal to carry out duties such as checking tickets) on 7, 10, and 14 February.

A rally is

Egypt: a vote where saying No means jail

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 12:56

On 14 January, polling stations opened in Egypt as part of a referendum on a proposed new constitution. The constitution being voted on was drawn up by the council that has technically ruled the country since the military deposed Mohamed Morsi in July 2014.

Some groups of socialists call for a “no” vote and agitate against military rule. Those that have done so have faced repression. The Revolutionary Socialist group, linked to the British SWP, has seen two leading members, Mahienour el-Masry and Hassan Moustafa, sentenced to two years hard labour for defying anti-protest laws.

A protest

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 12:50

The “Fast Food Rights” campaign, launched at a meeting on 8 January and involving the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), plans a day of direct action on Saturday 15 February.

For more information, see here.

Curzon Cinema workers win union recognition fight

Workers at the Curzon cinema chain have won their battle for union recognition.

Curzon bosses signed an agreement with the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) on Monday 13 January which means the company will have to bargain collectively with its employees on issues of pay, terms, and conditions

Thinking outside the box in Tube fight

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 12:40

Tube workers will strike on 4-6 and 11-13 February in a fight to stop ticket office closures and job losses.

A worker and RMT activist spoke to Solidarity about the dispute.

It’s definitely positive that we got a solid yes vote. Between now and the strikes we need to organise in the workplace to give people confidence.

We’re already showing we have a strategy and a plan, and that includes some types of action which are outside the experience of the employer.

The revenue strike is about thinking outside the box, and maximising the impact of the action. There’s a political impact with this

Royal Mail no strike deal: vote No!

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 12:26

Communication Workers Union (CWU) members in Royal Mail will be balloted from 21 January to 4 February on the “Agenda for Growth” agreement.

The deal proposes a 9.1% pay increase over three years, and includes commitments by Royal Mail to protect workers’ terms and conditions for at least five years. But those commitments are undermined by an enormous loophole in the terms of the deal that allows Royal Mail to renege if bosses deem any of the protections “reasonably likely to have a materially adverse effect on the employer’s business or prospects”.

Workers who have not had a pay rise for

Norman Harding, 1929-2013

Published on: Wed, 15/01/2014 - 12:23

Veteran Trotskyist and Leeds activist Norman Harding passed away in December. He was 84.

For the last 25 years Norman had been a key figure in Leeds Tenants’ Federation and pensioners’ rights campaigns. Before that he was a prominent member of the Socialist Labour League (SLL) and the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP). He wrote about his experiences in a highly readable and cautionary autobiography Staying Red — Why I Remain A Revolutionary Socialist.

Norman was a shop steward in a textile factory and member of Leeds Labour Party when he joined the SLL in the late 1950s, then the biggest

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